Any cool places in Western Central California?
Howdy, folks. I am a long-time road tripper (I even made a round-trip drive in a VW microbus from Southern California to the middle of British Columbia while still in the womb) who just found this forum.
On my way back from Monterey, CA to Orange County I'd like to see any cool places there are along US101 and I-5. Is there anything in the Coalinga area?
BTW, we're going to see Missions San Antonio de Padua and San Carlos Borromeo on the way up and Soledad on the way back. We won't be interested in any more missions on this trip.
Well, I've got to say the obvious answer would be to slide over to CA-1 and follow the Coast for one of the most amazing drives in the world!
If you stick to US-101 there is some nice wine country in the Paso Robles area that you might check out. There even is a interesting wine fountain along CA46 east of town.
I-5 just goes up the west side of the Central Valley. Its a very rural and agricultural area. I've stopped in Coalinga at a local restaurant to eat while traveling through the area going between US-101 and I-5, but I don't remember anything really standing out the town or the area.
I should note that I've driven Highway 1 up and down the coast a few times as well as US101. I've driven up and down I-5 more times than I can remember, but I figure there have to be some interesting places somewhere in the "Great Unknown" part of California worth seeing.
Last month I took my family on a trip between US101 and I-5 to Carrizo Plain National Monument after reading The Back Roads of Southern California. That opened my eyes to the possibility that there are things worth seeing in Central California I've never considered before.
Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 04-07-2009 at 11:00 AM.
Reason: added a link to our review of David's excellent book!
As Michael noted, the Central Valley of California is pretty blue collar: agriculture, oil, that sort of thing. Some of the old well pumps have been painted up to look like various animals, a site known as the Iron Zoo. There is also a restored thirties gas station in town
If you liked Carrizo Plain NM.......
........try entering the area from Ventura by leaving US 101 on CA 33. The road over the transverse mountain range there reaches elevations of +5,000'. Then either traverse or skirt CPMN to the north end of it, and take Bitterwater Road all the way up to CA 46, east of Paso Robles. Within a couple of miles of where you intersect CA 46 is the James Dean Memorial Junction, where the Rebel died on September 30, 1955.
Further bushwhacking N-NW would bring you back to US 101, while a NE bushwhack would bring you back over the Temblor Range to the Central Valley.
I like family-run wineries
I like family-run wineries and the "west central California" area is one of the very best place to seek and find them. Here is THE guidebook for this area -- and you even if you don't like wine -- lots of tips for local gems here.
I'll have to check that out. The only winery I remember stopping at in Paso Robles was Arciero over 10 years ago.
The James Dean crash memorial also sounds like a cool stop for a quick photo.
Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 04-07-2009 at 10:53 AM.
Hunter Liggett Road
Actually, one of my favorite driving roads in California is found in this area. You'll need to check to see that road is open when you go -- the California National Guard likes to close the road when they are practicing live-fire excercises. And it's been a while since I was able to drive it...but starting from Monterey, you would take the Carmel Valley road (G-16) to Arroyo Seco Road (G-16), hang a right > to Arroyo Seco and then follow the gravel, but still decently graded (CO-3050) to Santa Luca (road goes back to paved more-or-less) and then you would follow Milpitas Road (CO-4050) Fort Hunter-Liggett. And then down to the town of Jolon and G-14. Lots of real pretty country -- and I bet there will be lots of wildflowers in the hills here.
If the Hunter-Liggett area is closed -- Pinnacles National Monument is a great place to watch hawks and eagles this time of year. You would reach that from US-101 at Soledad on CA-146.
You could still see some of this area by using G-14 and cruising down by Lake San Antonio and Lake Nacimiento -- again your timing for wildflowers ought to be good.
Another "insider's" spot -- which I think you might find pretty amazing is NOT in the west central area -- but you could still do it on your way south from Monterey. It's Mono Hot Springs and the drive along the SCE access road along all of those lakes is pretty special -- Mono Hot Springs is one of my favorite places to go and hide-out. In addition to the developed resort and cabins, there are some natural hot pools up the hill.
And, of course, there's always Solvang -- which makes more a nice lunch stop!
Anyway, some ideas for you.
Fort Hunter-Liggett Road sounds like a great drive, but I don' think I'll have the time on this trip.
Here's my itinerary so far:
Shirohniichan's California Pre-Gold-Rush History Drive-o-Rama
- Orange County to Lost Hills via I-5.
- Lost Hills to Paso Robles via CA 46.
- Paso Robles to Mission San Antonio de Padua via US 101 and Jolon Rd.
- Mission SAP to Mission San Juan Bautista via US 101.
- Mission SJB to San Francisco hotel.
- San Francisco hotel to Mission San Francisco de Asis.
- Mission SFA to Mission San Rafael via US 101.
- Mission San Rafael to Point Reyes National Seashore via Sir Frances Drake Blvd.
- Point Reyes to Mission San Francisco Solano via US 101, CA 37 and CA 121.
- back to San Francisco hotel via CA 121, CA 37, US 101, I 580, and I 80.
- San Francisco hotel to Mission San Carlo Borromeo via US 101.
- Mission SCB to Mission Nuestra Señora Dolorosísima de la Soledad via CA 68 and US 101.
- ??? via ??? back to OC
OC to SF (and back) is going to be a very long day if you do too much sightseeing and getting off the beaten path.